Booth Gaining Power in the Energy Field

energyJasper Platz, '09,
arrived at Booth in 2007 with no experience in the energy industry, but he quickly became riveted to the possibilities of entrepreneurship and green technology. When he graduated, he moved to San Francisco with classmate Jason Brown, '09, to start Gen110, a supplier of solar energy to residential customers.

Nearly four years later the company has a base of 2,500 customers and 11 offices in California. In May it received financing from venture capital giant Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

The energy industry is gaining momentum among Booth students. Some, like Platz, are attracted to the promise of alternative energy and green technology. For others, the tripling of oil prices during the past decade has opened opportunities in energy-directed investment banking as well as in the finance departments of established energy companies.

The number of graduates joining energy companies is small, but many more are involved in energy through positions in investment banking, consulting, or private equity. In 2012, 2.6 percent, or 12 Full-Time graduates, took jobs in Houston, a significant increase from the five who headed to the oil and gas capital in 2008.

"The oil patch is booming," said Dan Pickering, '94, copresident and a founder of Houston investment bank Tudor Pickering Holt & Co. "If there is an attractive job, Houston is an easy sell."

Booth organizations offer programs geared to students and alumni. The Chicago Booth Energy Group, with a membership of 114, plans workshops, treks, and lectures for Full-Time students.

"Students are interested in learning more about alternative and traditional energy," said Ross Wong, a co-chair of the Full-Time students' Energy Group. He noted that large oil companies that recruit at Booth, such as Chevron Corp., headed by Booth alumnus John Watson, '80, have well-developed alternative energy initiatives.

The Chicago Booth Energy Club, with 39 members, provides networking and professional development opportunities for Evening and Weekend students. Its annual Energy Junction program in April drew representatives of more than 20 employers, including Exelon Inc., ExxonMobil Corp., and Chevron.

Booth's profile in energy was raised in 2011 with the launch of the Energy Policy Institute at Chicago (EPIC), a joint enterprise with the Harris School of Public Policy Studies. The interdisciplinary research institute focuses on the economic and social consequences of energy policies and sponsors events and workshops on energy topics.

Programs also are geared to the Booth community outside Chicago. An October Chicago Conversations panel discussion in Washington, DC, explored the challenges faced by the alternative energy sector. The session was moderated by Amos Gilkey, founder of CleanWave Group and comprised Michael Cantor, '89, managing partner of Equator Capital Group; Holmes Hummel, senior advisor, Office of the Undersecretary of Energy; Matthew Kozey, principal research analyst, security, energy, and environment, National Organization for Research (NORC) at the University of Chicago; and Gerald Stalun, '86, managing director, EIG Energy Partners.

The Booth Energy Network, with 800 members worldwide, brings together graduates in the energy field through a LinkedIn group as well as events in Houston, Washington, DC, and other cities. Some chapters meet for monthly breakfasts that include speakers from the energy sector.

Marc Atlas, '11, said there are many paths into the energy business - he learned the ropes by working for a New York commodity fund, then as a consultant assigned to the Enron Corp. bankruptcy. In 2006, he joined Chicago-based Invenergy LLC, the developer of wind, solar, and natural gas power plants founded by entrepreneur Michael Polsky, '87, for whom the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship is named.

Atlas' job as director of finance is particularly rewarding, he said, not just because it advances clean technology but also because it keeps him close to the tangible assets in which the company is investing. "You can stand on top of a wind turbine," he noted. - Judith Crown and Chelsea Vail


Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

Booth graduates are going in new directions, both geographically and professionally. Latin America is emerging as a destination, and overall, students' careers represent a wider array of industries and functions, according to the Career Services Employment Report for the Full-Time class of 2012. Consulting has become more popular in the wake of the financial crisis, investment banking is drawing fewer graduates, and investment management is holding steady.

Finance remains the top draw for graduates, although the percentage of students accepting positions in the field has dropped by 5 percentage points, reflecting the sector's retrenchment follow-ing the 2008 crisis. In 2012, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse, and Morgan Stanley were the largest recruiters, each hiring 10 or more graduates.

The number of students heading to investment banking has dropped since the 2008 financial crisis. The major banks, faced with a downturn in underwriting as well as mergers and acquisitions, are recruiting less aggressively than they used to. However, investment banking still remains the No. 2 draw for graduates.

Investment management and research has held steady in the years since the financial crisis, reflecting the continued demand for research, analysis, and money management for individuals and institutions. It remains the No. 3 field for graduates.

Consulting has grown steadily during the past five years, as multinationals recruit large numbers of Booth graduates. McKinsey & Company, The Boston Consulting Group, and Bain & Company were the largest overall campus hirers this past year, with 28, 24, and 21 hires respectively.

International Destinations

Latin America's growth as a destination for Booth graduates reflects the increasing number of students from that region, many of whom want to take their skills back to their home countries. Mulitnationals with operations in Latin America are eager to recruit students who speak the languages and know the cultures.


Graduates Are Doing Good - And It's Working Out Well

seiBefore Shirley You, '12, enrolled at Booth, she worked at a Boston consulting firm, analyzing the investment portfolios of nonprofit organizations such as college endowments. But You wanted to have a more direct impact. So after her Booth graduation, she took a job at the nonprofit Center for Financial Services Innovation in Chicago, where she works with for-profit partners to increase consumer access to banking and other financial services. "I wanted to work at a nonprofit where the social mission is central," You said.

Shirley You is among a cadre of graduates from the class of 2012 using the skills acquired at Booth in a socially beneficial way. Last year 1.3 percent of the Full-Time class took jobs in government or at nonprofits. But that doesn't reflect graduates working at for-profit organizations involved in socially beneficial projects such as microfinance and investment in developing economies.

The number of students taking positions with a social mission is small, but enthusiasm is high. Growing interest in promoting the social sector spurred Booth last year to launch the Social Enterprise Initiative, which aims to enhance the efficiency and impact of social service organizations. Participation in the two-year-old Social New Venture Challenge last year nearly doubled to 20 teams from 11 the year before. And membership in the Booth Net Impact club, which educates students about civic leadership and socially responsible management, is up 40 percent this year to 222 members.

Booth supports students who want to do internships at nonprofit organizations through the Internship Community Fund. The fund helps students meet shortfalls when an internship doesn't pay enough to cover living expenses, according to Jody Becker, associate director of Career Services, who manages the program. The stipends have enabled students in recent years to take internships, for example, at the National Park Service and the Los Angeles mayor's office.

Margaret Anderson, '12, started a job in September as development specialist at Cardno Emerging Markets USA Ltd. in Arlington, Virginia, part of an Australian for-profit firm that works with foundations, nongovernmental organizations, and other groups to plan and manage projects in the developing world. For example, a program in Kenya aims to provide young women with business and financial literacy skills and vocational training.

Before enrolling at Booth, Anderson worked as a resident director for a study-abroad program in Russia and as an intern at ShoreBank International in Washington, DC, which aims to expand financial services and access to credit in the developing world. "My contacts abroad drove home the need for economic growth," she said. "Developing nations have populations of well educated young men and women, but because there are no jobs, they think about emigrating."

At Booth, Anderson worked as a second-year career advisor, and she noted that finding positions that have a socially responsible dimension requires research and resourcefulness. "I had to be proactive and seek out the companies I wanted," she said. "There is no top-five list."

Brendan Hickey, '12, headed for a different type of activism - working for the Obama reelection campaign as an analyst, handling budgeting and cash-flow management.

Before enrolling at Booth, Hickey worked at a boutique investment banking firm in Denver. But it was the six months he spent teaching English in Chile that convinced him to pursue a career that could make a social impact. "I got so much out of teaching English," Hickey said. "I figured more analytical thinking could be valuable in the nonprofit world. Career Services opened my eyes to tangible opportunities."

Hickey found the Obama campaign position on Booth's Global Talent Solutions (GTS) website and concluded it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. He ended up working what he calls investment banker hours - seven days a week - but enjoyed the challenge and intensity of the work. "With such high stakes, you don't want to leave a stone unturned," he said.

After the election, he planned to take a vacation and assess his next move, but public service is his future. "I came to the realization that I'll be happier and more successful if I'm doing something I'm passionate about," he said. - Judith Crown




Last Updated 1/16/14